Working time

‘Working time’ is defined as any period during which a worker is ‘working, at his employer’s disposal and carrying out his activity or duties’, any period during which the worker is receiving ‘relevant training’, or any additional period that is agreed in a relevant agreement to be ‘working time’. Working time will not usually include time spent travelling to and from the workplace and time during rest breaks. Time spent on call has been the subject of much debate, which has concluded that ‘on call’ time constitutes working time if the employee is required to be in the workplace rather than at home, even if the worker is asleep for some or all of that time.

Working time is defined under the UK’s Working Time Regulations 1998, which came into force on 1 October 1998. The Regulations limit working hours and provide for rest breaks and minimum paid holiday rights. The Regulations apply to ‘workers’, including employees, temporary workers and freelancers, but not the genuinely self-employed. Young workers are protected by special rights such as greater rest break entitlements.

Workers are entitled to regular breaks in the working day and rest periods between working days. Employers must provide that rest periods can be taken, but do not need to ensure they are actually taken. The rest period is in addition to annual leave and can be paid or unpaid.

There should be a minimum rest period of 11 uninterrupted hours between each working day, and a minimum weekly rest period of not less than 24 uninterrupted hours in each seven-day period. Days off can be averaged over a two-week period. Workers who work for six hours are entitled to a 20-minute break. There should be adequate rest breaks where monotonous work places the worker at risk.